Entering his sixth season as the head coach of Andover Girls Water Polo, Head Coach Dan O’Shea has played a pivotal role in the success of the team for the past years, including New England Championships in 2012 and 2014. With his experience, coaching skills, and passion for the sport, Coach O’Shea looks to lead his team to another championship this spring.
Previously a competitive swimmer, Coach O’Shea first took up the sport of water polo as a freshman in high school. He described to The Phillipian that he found water polo dynamic and engaging and quickly fell in love with the sport and played throughout high school, then at the collegiate level for Connecticut College.
In an email to The Phillipian, Coach O’Shea wrote, “Most of my high school teammates viewed water polo as a sort of stepping stone or warm up for the winter swim season, but I started to look at swimming as an opportunity to prepare for water polo. My coaches really encouraged that passion, especially my college coach. He was driven by an absolute love of the game and really wanted each of us to become a water polo fanatic in our own right.”
After college, Coach O’Shea moved back to Boston, where he started teaching swimming and water polo as a side job. He soon realized his passion for the game of water polo, particularly teaching students about this sport. Coach O’Shea found coaching as a means to not only teach kids valuable skills, but to unite people together under a common interest.
O’Shea said, “I loved working with kids to help them learn new skills. When I made the switch from swimming to [water] polo, I saw it not only as an opportunity to pass on my own enthusiasm, but to help grow a greatly underappreciated and underdeveloped sport on the East Coast. When I got into the real hands on work of coaching, I really saw it as not just my job, but really my duty to try to inspire my players to be enthusiastic about the sport, to encourage them to develop the same teamwork and comradery that I experienced as a player, and to try to use the sport as a means to help young athletes develop as people.”
Coach O’Shea later became the Head Coach of Andover Girls Water Polo in the spring season of 2012, and the team has found success since then. Along with its two championships from 2012 and 2014, the team finished in third last season. Additionally, Coach O’Shea has served as the head coach for Andover Boys Water Polo for the past two years.
With a relatively new and young team this season, O’Shea looks forward to coaching his athletes with a positive attitude and bringing them together as a team, prioritizing growth and having fun. Combined with his knowledge of the sport, O’Shea offers guidance to not only the newcomers, but the seasoned returners as well.
Assistant Coach Jill Kozloff ’08, Instructor in Chemistry, said, “Dan is great at working with players who are totally new to the sport. He is very patient with them and is able to offer personal feedback to each player to help them improve. With the more experienced players, Dan is able to guide them through plays and different game strategies and help them work on overall game sense and fundamental skills. He keeps practices fun but productive and each player always leaves a bit better than when they arrived.”
O’Shea also seeks to foster an inclusive, tight-knit, and open environment amongst the team, a key factor to the team’s consistent success in past years.
Co-Captain Sarah Al-Mayahi ’17 said, “Dan does a really great job listening to everyone, regardless of their experience level. He’s always open to hearing every player’s opinions on what we think we need to work on or things we can and should improve in our games. Dan and [Coach Kozloff] do a really great job fostering an environment that is comfortable for everyone, and I think that’s why our teams have always been close-knit. Having a coach that’s so invested in the success of the team is really inspiring and makes you want to be a better player because of it.”
O’Shea has high expectations and looks for contributions from each member, regardless of experience.
O’Shea said, “We have a group of very fast learners who at this point seem to be really enjoying their time in practice. They will inevitably face challenges this season from more seasoned teams, but if they keep their morale high and continue to adapt, then they will have a successful run this year. What I’m personally looking forward to is watching this team develop as a group. Every girl on the team brings something to the table, regardless of whether they have five years of previous experience or are in the first days of their rookie year. Where it becomes exciting for me is to see each player find their niche and their means of contribution.”